Day: February 2, 2018

EMOTIONAL FOCUS

By MIKE PATRICK

When I joined the chaplain’s staff at Hendrick Medical Center in 1990, part of my first assignment was to work with the patients on the Stress Unit, a non-lock up psychiatric floor. One of the terms used by various mental health professionals was “emotional focus.” In essence, it meant that a person becomes like what he or she thinks about.

MPatrick (1)

Mike Patrick

For example, a teenage boy moving toward becoming an independent person may despise his father. It is not uncommon for fathers and sons to have conflict. A friend of the family may tell the son that he is just like his dad. You probably could not make the son more angry. However, the more he thinks about his father (good or bad), the more he becomes like him.

Or, what about our behaviors? Perhaps emotional focus is one contributing factor to the addiction to pornography. The more you look, the more that becomes a part of your life and you want to see even more.

Through the years, people occasionally ask me what to do with unwanted thoughts. There are three steps to move toward change.

1) Recognize the negative thoughts. If you don’t recognize them as harmful, you will not change.
2) Resist the negative thoughts. Find some way to stop them in their tracks. Keep a rubber band on your wrist and snap it when the thoughts come. Pray aloud. Call a friend.
3) Refocus your mind. Use the negative thoughts as a trigger to focus on something you would rather become. Thoughts of irritation could become triggers for thinking about gratitude. Thoughts of immoral things could become a trigger to think about the Cross of Christ.

By the way, the Book of Proverbs also talked about emotional focus. The New King James Version reads: “For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he…” (Prov 23:7).

Mike Patrick retired as Chaplain and Ministry Education Coordinator after 27 years at Hendrick Medical Center.

AN OBLIGATION TO WITNESS

It costs me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods or no god.  It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

                                     – – – Thomas Jefferson

 By JIM McDONALD

I essentially agree with Thomas Jefferson. However, if we know God, that is, having been saved by Jesus’ sacrifice and have a relationship with Him, then we have an obligation to share the salvation information with our fellow inhabitants of the world.

JimMcDonald

Jim McDonald

If we do not do this, I think we may regret it by witnessing their demise at God’s judgment. This thought may seem somewhat speculative but the great commission is clear in Matthew 28. This mandate is concise. Further, as I proclaim that I am ready for the end, that is, my death or the rapture (the second coming of Christ) I have reservations about the latter because of those who have not accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

God is patient and everything occurs with His timing, so I must also wait and persevere in my journey in His will for me. That includes the command to present my witness. I want to do my part, so although I suffer no injury by other’s response to God, I must interfere with their belief system to some extent. I do not intend to offend anyone nor trample on their choices in life. I need only to expose what I know.

Jim McDonald is a member of Wylie United Methodist Church and former president of the Abilene Association of Congregations

THE PEACH TREE INCIDENT

By DANNY MINTON

When I was in elementary school, my mother planted a peach tree in our backyard. That was the time when during the summer months all the kids played outside in either your yard or some neighbor’s yard. Ours was no different. It was a football field, baseball field, and golf course.

DannyMinton

Danny Minton

There were clotheslines with Yellow Jacket nests in the ends of the poles. There was a swing set, part of which worked. We had a chain link fence with a gate to the alley, with honeysuckle vines growing the entire length of the fence and of course more Yellow Jacket nests mingled with a few honeybees. One spring my mother decided to plant this peach tree in the backyard on about the 10-yard line. Since the backyard is the domain of every young boy, the tree was crowding several athletic activities. It covered the end zone and part of the infield making us move the baseball park to the other end of the yard, but still needing to utilize the whole area.

One summer the tree looked much like the one in the pictures you see in magazines, well-shaped with full leaves and blossoms starting to emerge. As you know, summer is baseball season and with baseball season comes gloves, balls, bats, and bases. The peach tree was third base.

Then that summer came the incident. I’m not sure what made it transpire, but nevertheless, it happened. My little brother, baseball bat in hand, proceeded to take the peach tree apart, limb by limb, top to bottom. By the time he was through one whole side of the tree was completely gone. It looked like a buzz saw had gotten hold of the north side of this little peach tree. About that time my mother exited to the backyard flinging open the screen door. I’ll leave the rest of this incident to your imagination.

It crushed my mother that this had happened. Her beautiful tree now looked rather lopsided, to say the least. Somehow it made it through the summer, winter and then in the spring it began to bring on new life. The limbs on the victimized side began to sprout, and before you knew it, the tree looked as if it had never gone through any trial at all. In fact, after my brother’s carefully planned pruning job, the tree came out better than before, producing peaches that same summer.

Life is much like the peach tree. We can go on day to day with things looking and feeling just great. We grow and blossom and enjoy the world around us. Then one day something happens, and it seems like the entire world comes crumbling down around us. We wonder “how can I go on after this?” We retreat to a shell or become angry at the world and wonder again “why me, Lord, why me?”

But God in the midst of our trials still says, “I love you” and puts his arm around you and helps you make it through those tough times. It may take a while, but eventually, you can overcome the devastation and once again grow back to being the person you were before, but this time better for having weathered tough times. Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

So next time you feel like someone has taken a baseball bat to your life and heart, leaving your life seemingly lopsided, just remember that God is still there beside you, nourishing you and encouraging you not to give up and reminding you that you’ll bloom again.

_______________

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:20

Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ

LIFELINES: LEARNING GENEROSITY

By LARRY BAKER

I think my Grandfather first taught me. I’m not sure. What I do remember is the way he treated me.

LarryBaker

Larry Baker

I recall some places he lived – in a white frame house on the side of a hill, “home” for a tenant farmer growing cotton and tending a garden; a rented, unpainted clapboard house a dozen miles northeast of my family home; a barracks-like building that housed an apartment during World War II when he worked at a munitions plant; and the only home he ever owned, a tiny frame building planted a couple hundred feet away from U.S. 80 on a spot of land he farmed for food and income.

You get the picture. No land baron he! He was “Granddaddy” who welcomed his grandson into his home every summer. “We” worked the farm, harvested the produce, and loaded his truck for a trek through the countryside that ended at a small grocery store in a nearby hamlet. On the way, he “peddled” his goods to folks who liked his butter beans, delighted in his sweet corn, or relished his freshly picked strawberries. At the end of each trip, he sold the remainder of the day’s produce to store owners. That, his income earned by the sweat of his brow and the strain on his back.

After a week or two, I packed for home. That visit always ended with a ritual. Granddaddy would pull out a Mason jar almost full of coins. I would count them – half-dollars, quarters, dimes, nickels, pennies. That collection: his gift to me and my “pay” for working with him. Out of each day’s sales, he put aside some coins for the grandson who had tracked him through the fields and ridden proudly beside him as he sold his goods door to door.

Any way you measure it, Granddaddy was generous with me! But, with others – family and church — as well. The table on Christmas Day was always laden with food and the tree surrounded with brightly-wrapped, but never expensive, gifts for everyone. Again, generosity! I don’t know where he learned it. I don’t know where it started but I know how it played out. The short, round-bodied man in bib overalls that I called “Granddaddy” practiced generosity when I didn’t know the meaning of the word and without ever making a big deal of it.

Lately, I have bumped into “generosity” often. One of the hottest management gurus in our time and the owner of Chic-Fil-A jointly penned a small best-selling book about it. A widely-known theologian, a noted physician-scientist, and the founder of Habitat for Humanity have as well.

Wonder why generosity has found its place in the middle of public discussion. Maybe because we are living in a “culture largely stripped of grace” as one described us. Maybe it’s an antidote to the me-myself-and-mine way of living that thinks first and only of itself. Maybe the seed of the Bible, planted but long dormant, has broken through the parched crust of American life with promise for new life. Maybe our spirits need the healing tonic. No matter the reason, celebrate the prospect of something much better than we’ve been. 

Maybe those folks are onto something my grandfather knew years when I was a tow-headed, barefoot boy logging days as his summer sidekick. They, at least, sent me back across the years to think about the first person I knew who lived generosity with big-hearted deeds and simple words.

I know others. Generous people are everywhere, but we don’t tell their stories often enough. My parents, like my grandfather, were generous. Men and women in the churches I have served have been. Generous people look a lot like those first Christians who worshiped with “glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:46). They’re kin to Paul who wrapped up his counsel to Timothy urging “Command them…to be generous and willing to share” (1 Timothy 6:18).

And all look like the God who knows how to give good gifts and has poured out love to people in all walks of life. When we meet God in the Bible we meet the One with a lavish heart. God doesn’t hang on greedily to good gifts and doesn’t make deals as a way to determine who gets them Instead, God gives – “giveth and giveth and giveth” again.

On a tiny farm and along the roads of North Louisiana, I learned generosity doesn’t hinge on having much; it has to do with the way we see life and the way we parcel out what we have – experience, understanding, time, money, love.

Generosity is for every one of us. To become generous we need only two traits — a willing spirit and the courage to reach beyond ourselves.

 Larry Baker is director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at Hardin-Simmons University.